Waking



Roggvir awoke to feelings of warmth and grogginess. He felt good, cozy even, more comfortable than he'd ever been. After several moments, he opened his eyes. His blurry vision eventually cleared as he realized he was lying down. Not only that, but he was nestled in a particularly large, comfortable bed.

And it wasn't just the bed...the whole scenario was like something out of a dream. He'd never seen this many nice things in one place. It certainly wasn't his home, but it did look vaguely familiar.

The Winking Skeever, he realized. He was in a room at the Winking Skeever, but while that answered one question, it raised another: since when could he afford a room at the Winking Skeever?

There was a large wooden tub of steaming water and flower petals. Instinctively, he knew the bath was for him so he rose, stripped down, and sank in. The feeling was pleasurable yet unfamiliar; he seemed to remember that he usually took quick baths in cold water.

The door to the room opened suddenly and in came a Redguard woman with a tray of food. She was young and beautiful, with long brown hair pulled back, and eyes that reminded him of amber stones.

He opened his mouth to ask who she was, but instead heard himself saying her name. "Zahra."

She turned to him and smiled brightly. "You're awake, my love!" she greeted him cheerily. "I brought you some breakfast myself. I didn't want the girls peeking at you while you bathed."


Roggvir blushed slightly, looking down for a moment then back up at her as she set the tray down on a nearby table. It was a platter of succulent meats, boiled eggs, fresh apples, sweet rolls, and a small jug of ale. He blinked, trying to remember when, if ever, he'd eaten like this.

"I need to pick up our clothes from across the street and then we'll be on our way," she told him.

"Did you book the carriage already?" he asked. It was so strange talking to her. It was like he knew her, and yet he didn't know her. He knew what they were talking about, and yet had absolutely no clue.

"Not yet, but I will," she assured him. "By this time next week, we'll be married at the Temple of Mara in Riften."

Roggvir nodded in a daze. "And...my sister? My niece? Did my brother-in-law say they could attend?"

The light in her eyes dimmed a bit as her voice softened. "No, love. It's not safe for them, remember?"

He did remember...in a way. His hand flew to his neck as it suddenly pained him, despite their being no wound. He knew that somehow, in some way, being here at the tavern, lounging in a hot bath and enjoying an even hotter breakfast was actually very dangerous for them both.

"You should hurry then," he murmured, as though in a dream. "I'll get dry."

***

Zahra was glowing as she descended the tavern stairs to the first floor. She hadn't expected to be this successful; it almost wasn't real. She almost stopped herself the moment she broke into the Hall of the Dead, and then later again when she mended his body. But now her mind was filled with different thoughts, giddy thoughts of traveling back across Skyrim together and getting married.

"Morning, sister."

Zahra's brow furrowed as she blinked repeatedly, searching for whoever had so rudely interrupted her thoughts. As fate would have it, it was the executioner himself.


"Good morning," Zahra mumbled.

"I'm Ahtar. You passing through?" he asked, looking her over. She briefly wondered if he saw a lot of Redguard women in Solitude. She assumed he would.

"I'm Zahra, and yes," she nodded. "My...betrothed and I are leaving within the hour. I'm off to book us a carriage."

The executioner snorted. "Is he a Nord by any chance?"

Zahra was getting annoyed. "Yes...?"

"You know they all talk a good game about being warriors and heroes...until some real shit goes down," he grumbled. "Now that the war's started, already one of the city guards has deserted and others talking about following suit."

Zahra maintained a neutral face. "That's...unfortunate?"

"They're not wrong about being afraid though," Ahtar chuckled. "It's about to get brutal out there. My advice? Forget the carriage. Book passage aboard a ship instead. In a day's time, you can get as far as Windhelm."

Zahra blinked. I should have thought of that. Windhelm was north of Riften, less than a day from Shor's Stone.

"Thank you," she told him genuinely.

"Sure it costs twice as much as a carriage, but it's a hell of a lot safer," the executioner shrugged.

"We'll head straight to the docks then," she nodded. She thanked him again before hurrying over to Radiant Raiment.

Norion was waiting for her with her requested items: some armor, some common clothes, and some wedding clothes. But there were two more items she hadn't asked for: two sets of noble clothes.

"I don't know how you got engaged so quickly, but I'm glad it's happening for you," he confessed. "Do you two plan to have children?"

Zahra's whole face lit up. She hadn't, actually, but now she wouldn't be able to think of anything else. "Of course!" She looked down at the noble clothes. There was an embroidered gown of some shimmery material she didn't recognize, and as set black velvet robes. "I didn't ask for those."

"If you're in a big city, posing as a noble is the best way to go," he explained. "Nobles and servants are both invisible, but in different ways. One seems untouchable, the other seems expendable. You want strangers to think you're untouchable. The magic infused in these clothes will ensure that."

"And the others?"

"The wedding clothes are enchanted to make your intended feel no regrets. The armor and the common clothes will simply make you less noticeable. Thieves will ignore you on the road, but if you wander too close to a fort full of bandits, you'll have to fight."

Zahra snorted. "Bandits don't scare me."

"Of course not," Norion nodded. "But bandits aren't the only things out there. Soldiers having begun patrolling the roads; these clothes will help you slip by them as well. Now, all of these are used and some are well-worn, so all together? One hundred septims."

"Fair enough," Zahra nodded. It was a steal, really. Individually, some pieces were worth several times that. She counted out the coins for him, took her items, and turned to leave.

"I hope you find your happiness, Zahra," the tall elf called after her.

"I will!" she called back.

***


To top off the clothes, Zahra pulled out some of the trinkets she'd stolen from Psymia's stash - a circlet for Roggvir, a gold necklace for herself, and rings for both of them. When they were done dressing, the odd couple was briefly rendered speechless at how good they looked.

As Zahra packed up their things, Roggvir suddenly hesitated.

"The guards," he blinked, struggling to remember. "They're looking for me."

"No one will recognize you," she assured him. "There are magicks on these clothes, and we are taking a ship to Windhelm instead of a carriage. By tomorrow, we'll be in a new city where nobody knows us."

"Windhelm?" Roggvir's face lit up. "I've heard tales of Windhelm, and the Palace of Kings." he paused. "Ulfric Stormcloak lives there!"

"Shhh!" she hushed him. "You do not say that name here," she rasped, eyes shooting daggers. "That man is the reason we're in this mess to begin with."

Roggvir nodded silently, his hand subconsciously rubbing his throat again.

"Is your neck paining you?" she asked, still whispering.

He nodded again.

"Very well," she assured him. "When we are on the boat, I will give you something for it."

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